Tesla Motors Inc., a specialty electric-vehicle maker based in San Carlos, CA, plans to invest $47.7 million to establish a new research and development center in Rochester Hills, MI.

The auto maker recently garnered widespread acclaim for the development and introduction of its Lotus Elise-based electric Roadster, an exotic $100,000 sports car powered solely by advanced lithium-ion batteries and a unique 3-phase induction motor.

The Tesla Roadster can sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) in less than 4 seconds and achieve a top speed of about 130 mph (209 km/h), the niche auto maker says.

The new engineering center, which will boost Tesla’s employment in Michigan from nine workers to 76, will assist in the development of technologies for additional models, including a new electric 4-door sedan the company reportedly is planning to introduce in the next several years.

“By locating our R&D center near Detroit, we will have access to the great talent pool that exists here in automotive engineering and design,” CEO Martin Eberhard says.

“The team we build in this (new) office will be shaping the future of automobiles in the backyard of the city that defined the American automobile industry one century ago.”

A 3-year $602,000 single business tax credit from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. convinced Tesla to choose Michigan over a competing site in South Carolina.

Other incentives offered to Tesla include a 2-year membership in Oakland County’s Automation Alley technology park; $14,500 package from the city of Rochester Hills for a job fair; 3-year property tax abatement; and business advisory services through Oakland University.

msutton@wardsauto.com